Hacksaw Ridge is a war-drama film that depicts the true story of heroism displayed by Desmond Doss during the Okinawa Campaign during World War ll. Desmond Doss was a devout Christian whose personal belief would not allow him to carry a weapon. He joined the Army and faced ridicule from his peers and was bullied by his superiors. Their goal was to pressure him into voluntarily leaving thinking they could not trust a “conscientious objector” in battle. Doss believed his personal beliefs did not excuse him from serving his Country nor did it diminish his ability and desire to serve as an unarmed medic. I recommend this movie to anyone who has the ability to withstand the graphic depictions of war. This movie has a spiritual-inspirational message that left me reflective of the greater meaning of strength. Throughout his entire tour of duty, Desmond exhibited profound strength. How often is it that the powerful, well-liked, popular concept becomes the approved standard we adapt to?
There is a distinctive difference between strength and profound strength. The definition that initially comes to mind when we think of the word strength is primarily defined as an ability to exhibit physical power. It brings to mind a picture of a brawny man with large muscles lifting excessive amounts of weight.
Profound strength comes from within. I do not believe it is an innate characteristic. It is a learned concept that encompasses challenges. It is through difficulty that we either develop confidence in our ability to confront our inner beliefs or we yield to and accept the path of least resistance.
Samson had great physical strength. He reveled in his strength. This misplaced self-assurance ultimately led to his downfall.
In Daniel 3 we find 3 young men who possessed the same profound strength as Desmond Doss. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were Jews. King Nebuchadnezzar had defeated the king of Judah and brought young men of Jewish nobility into his court. King Nebuchadnezzar had his servants make a golden statue. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down and worship the statue.
As there were men who revealed Desmond Doss’ refusal to go against his beliefs; there were similar men who exposed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The consequence for disobeying was a fiery furnace.
Profound strength broadens our understanding of what “true strength” is intended to mean. Profound strength involves, a source of support, an emotional toughness, and a defensive ability to resist. It is an asset or quality with a degree of intensity that eventually can have a persuasive power to change those around you.
The common thread to be found in the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Desmond Doss is this profound strength that changes those around us. Isn’t this our goal? To show those who do not know Jesus that we have an appropriate, unlimited, loving source of support from the One that enables us to be profoundly strong in our beliefs? That we embody a fitting emotional toughness that enables us to resist what often seems to be the “reasonable” path of resistance. It is a reflective strength, which shows power through our grace.
Ultimately this is our challenge. It’s a bumpy journey but a well traveled one. We are never alone.
From Ashes to Beauty
In our house we are avid Harry Potter fans. I know this series of books has been a source of controversy due to its subject matter concerning the topic of wizardry and magic. I want to say that Harry Potter is a work of fiction, dealing with the ongoing fight between Good and Evil.
Initially, I read these books with my son Michael when he was in 3rd grade. We enjoyed the movies as they came out in the theaters and we are now revisiting this series with our Grandson, Taylor.
Hogwarts is a school for young emerging wizards. Albus Dumbledore is the headmaster. The character I want to talk about is Dumbledore’s bird, Fawkes who is a phoenix. In mythology a phoenix is a long living bird that is able to regenerate or be reborn.
Fawkes lives in Professor Dumbledore’s office. Harry meets him on a Burning Day. He looks old and sick, suddenly, he bursts into flames and burns down into a pile of ash. Harry is shocked and immediately apologizes to Professor Dumbledore. “Your bird- I couldn’t do anything- he just caught fire –“(12.14). Professor Dumbledore explains, “Phoenixes burst into flame when it is time for them to die and are reborn from the ashes” (12. 18). He also tells Harry that phoenixes can carry immensely heavy loads and that their tears have healing powers. Above all, phoenixes are loyal birds. Fawkes is loyal to Albus Dumbledore. However, Harry’s faithful devotion to Professor Dumbledore promotes a relationship of protective loyalty between Fawkes and Harry. Harry is now included in this circle of loyal protection.
Life presents us with many battles. A battle can be defined as a struggle against somebody or something. To “do battle” with somebody or something is to fight or struggle against somebody. To fight a losing battle means to try hard with no prospect of success.
Sometimes we are able to choose our battles. More often then not our battles are handed over to us without our consent. These are the battles that challenge us. They force us to confront our own integrity and to a great extent our core self.
We have a phoenix. He doesn’t fix our battles, or fight them for us, which is a hard lesson to learn. He is however, a faithful and loyal defender, standing beside us within our battles. He understands how hard a loss can be. He grieves with us, comforts us and picks us up. He offers us a rebirth or a regeneration of something destroyed. He promises to bring beauty out of the ashes.
Isaiah 61:3 we read, He has sent me to strengthen the sorrowing people of Jerusalem. I will give them a crown to replace their ashes. I will give them the oil of gladness to replace their spirit of sadness, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Then they will be called “The Trees of Goodness.” They will be like trees planted by Yahweh, and they will show His greatness.
When we mourn, when we are as a heap of ashes, God sees us. In our loss and in our struggle if we anoint ourselves with the oil of gladness He will loyally insert His presence in our lives and replace our sadness with joy. In His timing He will replace the ash with a garland of flowers.
As the phoenix is reborn out of the ashes we too are offered this greater gift. When our ash is replaced with a garland of flowers people will know that we are under the hand of Jehovah God. We are God’s trees, in His garden, never forgotten, and never abandoned. It is in this moment that we gratefully are called to give Him the glory for this rebirth.
Never doubt, that our God sees our burdens and tears. He holds our tears in His hand and reincarnates them into something beautiful.
Motherhood marks the beginning of a journey that will take us to great heights of joy and love that we cannot always explain. It’s an unconditional love that has no limits. The joyful days of motherhood are easy to experience! It makes us smile and rejoice in the beauty of the gift God has granted us.
We sigh through the days of the difficult twos, timeouts and the tantrums. We manage the endless days of selflessness running from one thing to the next, meeting so many needs that we begin to feel like we need two more of us to accomplish the many tasks! These are the days that we stop and remind ourselves to just breathe.
We learn how to breathe when we give birth. Focus is our objective in dealing with the pain. Coping with our own pain is an undertaking that we accept. Painful journeys whether chosen or imposed on our grown children can bring us to a place of shattered and absolute helplessness. It’s the loss of control and our inability to protect and shelter them that brings us to our knees.
In 2 Kings 4:8-37 we have an example of how to breathe through the crisis and pain of motherhood. You may know her as the Shunemite Woman. She was blessed with wealth, but denied the ability to have a child. She had learned to live beyond this disappointment and had a heart that was giving and caring. Elisha was a prophet of God. His God directed travels often led him to her city. Her generous nature urged her to ask her husband to provide a room for Elisha whenever he journeyed trough Shunem. Desiring to respond to her kindness, Elisha directed his servant to enquire of her, “You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you?” Her refusal of this offer prompted his servant to remind Elisha that she had no son. Elisha approached her and said, “About this time next year, after 9 months of pregnancy, you will hold a son in your arms! The woman said, “No, my master, O man of the one true God. Don’t lie to me!
One year later she had a son in her arms. The child grew older and one day, he went out to his father in the fields complaining that his head hurt. He died later that day in the arms of his mother.
Undeterred by his death she immediately traveled to find Elisha. Upon arrival she reminded Elisha saying, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?” In essence she was saying, why? Why had she been blessed with a child she did not ask for only to have to experience the anguish of watching him die? This cruel twist of fate was beyond comprehension.
Elisha immediately traveled to Shunem. He prayed to Yahweh, and God returned the breathe of life back into her son’s body.
Twice we are told that she said, “It will be all right,” once to her husband and once to Elisha’s servant. Her unfailing confidence that it “would be all right” is the lesson for you and me. She continued to breathe. She sought out the help of the one who could help her. She believed in something greater then herself.
Like the Shunamite Woman, we must depend on God. It is His mercy and grace that gives us life and continues to guide us through the tragedies of our lives. However, it is His plan that we as a family support and encourage and hold each other through difficult times. Just like Elisha’s servant we must be aware, be observant, be involved in each other’s lives. This is not for gossip, nor to point fingers, but simply to love and care for someone who desperately needs our caring concern.
We must also be prepared with our unending love and compassion for the times that God in his wisdom, gently says, “No.”
Look around; for the field is ripe, the opportunities are abundant. Our Father is prodding us to respond in love.
Power Packed Words
In one of our Ladies studies, we have been going through the book “The Power of a Woman’s Words”. It is giving me great reminders on how important it is to choose our words carefully. You never know how something you say can affect another person, sometimes even change their life. One careless word spoken without consideration could add more stress to an already rough day, hurt someone’s self esteem or even worse; turn them from Christ.
Let us each take the time to always think about the words we use. Wouldn’t you rather be a person that brightens someone’s day, that gives that extra bit of encouragement to a individual struggling with self confidence or even the person that shows the love of Christ to a hurting soul.
Below is a section from our study. I pray that we will each choose to use encouraging and uplifting words.
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
Words a Friend Would Love to hear
Jesus taught, “Treat others as you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:3 TLB). Make a list of words that you would like to hear and then us those same words to bless others. If there are words you would like to hear, chances are there are others out there who would like to hear them too.
~You bring out the best in me. ~Your are an inspiration to me. ~I love to hear how God is working in your life. ~How can I pray for you today? ~I can help you with that. ~I’d like your opinion. ~What do you think? ~You teach me so much about friendship. ~You inspire me to be a better person. ~You are a great wife, mother, friend, etc. ~Can I bring you dinner tonight? ~I believe in you. ~You can accomplish anything God has called you to do. ~I am so glad we are friends. ~Yep, you mad a mistake. Now let’s put it behind us and move on. ~You won’t see me throwing the first stone. ~We all make mistakes. ~Thank you for… ~I am hurting with you. ~I don’t understand either. ~Will you help me____? You are so good at it. ~What can I do to help you reach your goal? ~You are such a great friend. ~I have learned so much from you. ~I want to be like you when I grow up.
September 29, 2016The Touch of Trust
The word “trust” when used in the context of a verb is defined as, to rely on somebody or something. The second definition of trust caught my attention. It stated: to confidently allow somebody to do something. The principle of both definitions is the same. To rely on someone or to allow somebody to act on your behalf leads one to believe that trust is involved.
The gospel of Mark 5:23 tells us of two individuals who had that kind of trust. Jairus, a ruler in the synagogue, had a daughter that was deathly ill. He pled with Jesus and said, “Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”
Picture Jesus surrounded by a pressing crowd. Each person surrounding him had a need. I would imagine some were simply curious, hoping to see a miracle like the ones they had previously seen or heard about. In order to capture our attention we are told that like Jairus, some in the crowd had urgent pressing needs.
She was desperate. She had used all her resources, both physical and financial. In spite of all her efforts, she was getting worse. She could not live like this forever and knew that her life was slowly ebbing away as she had bled for 12 years.
Hebrew law considered her unclean. She and everything she touched or that touched her was considered unclean. Unclean…such a tainted, horrible, lonely, sentence to live with. To go out in public was a risk. If someone recognized her, she could be held liable for breaking the law. She was out of options.
She had heard about Jesus and his miraculous ability to heal. So she edged into the crowd surrounding Jesus. She reached out and touched his clothes. Immediately she was healed.
Was this an act of desperate need? Did she really understand who Jesus was? Yes it was, and yes she knew. It was her confident, deep conviction that Jesus was who He said He was and her complete understanding that all she needed was a moment in the presence of the One who could heal her with a simple touch.
While physical healing was her urgent desire she had already arrived at a deeper understanding of what Jesus had to offer her. She knew He could make her whole.
When we need to take that leap of faith and before we have exhausted all our human resources. We would be wise to reach out and touch the clothes of Jesus. We may not receive physical healing, but we like the woman in Mark 5, must arrive at a place of deeper knowledge. Confidently trusting that we are in His presence, receiving His guidance and His protective love. I would take that with me into any battle that I may face.
Two miracles occurred that day, Jairus’ daughter died when the crowd delayed Jesus. Upon hearing this news, Jesus told Jairus, “Do not be afraid; just believe.” What an amazing moment to witness, Jesus, taking her hand and bringing her back to life.
To be alone is hopelessness. To have our hand in His as He reaches out to us requires us to hold on. True trust involves His leading and our commitment to follow.
May 26, 2016
As I look and observe the overall state of this world I cannot help but see a weary, chaotic place. Do you have the impression that beliefs are being altered and rewritten? It’s as if we are desperately looking for a new path that has a one size fits all mentality. Turbulent storms of debate are more often then not predicted on the forefront of life’s daily existence. It’s as if we are the silent deer looking into the headlights, frozen and not sure of which way we should turn for safety.
For many years we have been conditioned to show our independence, and parade our own self-reliance to the point of exclusiveness. It’s as if we fear we will be seen as a failure if we do not appear this way. Are we acclimating to this mentality because we desire it, or because we feel obligated to exhibit it?
When we look into the mirrors of our souls what do we see? Are we autonomously alone? Have we eased into the assertion that we can do this by ourselves? If this is the reflection we see, then we have to admit that we are far away from where God is.
Eve’s self-reliance and overriding sense that she could get around God’s restriction of eating the forbidden fruit sent her crashing into a life of pain and frustration. Her shattered paradise forced her to live within the life altering consequences of her decision to forgo God’s intentions of and for her.
It has always been God’s purpose from the beginning of time that we have a relationship with Him. He longs for our hearts. God’s creation of the earth is a gift that should draw us to Him! We should view this gift as precious and feel great wonder at the intricacies of His creation. He felt satisfaction and joy in providing us this gracious gift. Like Eve, when we expel our need of God, and disregard His rightful place in our lives we most certainly will experience pain and frustration.
As Christian’s we know there is only one place that offers true safety. Our covenant relationship with God is our earthly paradise. Sin has given us a garden that produces thistles and weeds, however; we know that there is only one true God capable of patiently waiting for us to give up our control and place it in His hands.
Success does not come when you achieve His presence. The real victory lies in the search. Are you seeking His guidance? Do you have a pressing need to include Him in your life? Are you more comfortable, when you know, that God has been invited into your thought process?
We must not deny our need for God. We only fool ourselves when we fashion a relationship with Him based on our terms. We need to look into the mirror intently and often. Can you find Him in your mirror?
January 28, 2016
Hearts Prepared to Trust
“My heart says of you, “seek his face! Your face, Lord, I will seek.” Psalm 27:8
Trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone. As women we place great value in trust. Without trust our relationships are superficial.
This begs the question. Do we really grasp the crucial necessity of our placing our trust in God and in Him first? This does not eliminate other areas of trust in our lives but it sets an important precedent that God is to be our primary source of trust.
To begin this journey, I think we must first examine our own hearts. What is truly inside our hearts? We have a great capacity to love. God our Father made us this way. This is a blessing.
We are promised that nothing can separate us from God. However, a prideful heart separates us from the ability to seek God. A heart of independence creates a situation in which we are incapable of subjecting ourselves to the loving guidance of our Father.
Our hearts are also vulnerable, to hurt, rejection, and ridicule. If this should occur our instincts emerge and we are very capable of protecting ourselves by disengaging our hearts. While this is a natural impulse it can create a greater chasm that will cause us to lose hope.
I have found that in order to have honest, trustworthy relationships, I must first seek a relation-ship with God. This requires an effort on my part in which I surrender my will into His.
We must empty our hearts of worry, stress and all that we have no control over. If our hearts are designed for God to fill, (and they are), why are we so susceptible to filing our hearts with unhealthy stuff?
Most of us have witnessed the skit of a person hanging on to the edge of a cliff. Their life is dependent on their unsecured grasp. Yelling for help an Angel appears and counsels them to simply trust and, “Let go!”
God is a “vow keeper.” His love never fails, and yet, we keep looking for strength in uncertain places. When we invite God in He is patiently waiting to fill our hearts.
God envelops all that trust is. He is reliable, speaks only truth, and has omnipotent abilities and unlimited strength. If we drink in those qualifications, why would we not choose Him? In reality, God is every woman’s ideal vision for a perfect relationship. That was His intent.
When we intently follow and gaze into the face of Christ, it is then that real life floods into our hearts and we have the ability to “Let go.”
February 20, 2016 we will be showing an encore viewing of the movie, “The War Room”, followed by a discussion. Do not let this opportunity pass you by. Share in this moment with women from around the County. Together, in Christ we are strong. Together in prayer, with our hearts full of trust, our relationships will be a gift that we can humbly lay at the feet of Christ for His Fathers glory and His service.
November 19, 2015Is it enough for us to simply know about Jesus? Can we hear His story, believe His story and then choose to tuck it away like we might a good book?
It wasn’t enough for the 12 men who were chosen to follow him and then ultimately chose to stay with Him. They were average men of common means, without remarkable skills or popularity. When I considered this, I wondered? “What kind of pull drew these men to know and follow the heart of Jesus?” They left all that they knew, all that was necessary to survive, in order to walk by His side. What was it that enabled them to commit to this kind of ambiguous relationship?
Once we choose to move toward Jesus He will draw even closer to us. Our Creator made us with hearts that were made for Him to dwell within.
The men who followed Jesus were never singularly responsible for this decision. They were called. From the moment they accepted this calling, a unique discernment overtook their common, average, capabilities. They had what we have, the ability to choose to be dependent on Jesus. It was this sense of trust that compelled them to move forward, and it grew significantly with time and understanding. Days after the death of Christ we are told that Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael Zebedee and two other disciples were all together.
Peter said, “I’m going out to fish.” The others agreed and decided to go with him. Everything in their lives was different. They had no direction and limited options. Time, so much time had been invested and for what? To what end and what purpose? Their leader was gone.
It must have felt comforting to get in a boat and simply do what they knew they were good at. But no fish were to be caught that night. It’s as if God was saying, “No, I’m not done with you yet! You cannot be distracted. I have great things ahead for you to accomplish.”
In the morning there was a man on the shore. They heard his voice, telling them to recast their nets. It wasn’t until they had caught an amazing amount of fish that they knew. The voice calling, the voice they heard belonged to Jesus.
With great compassion Jesus fellowshipped with them and commissioned them to, “Feed my sheep.” He spent time preparing and uplifting them in order to restore what had been brutally taken from them. Their direction and confidence.
It is never enough to simply know about Jesus. God’s plan is not yet completed. His need for us is as necessary today as it was when He called His Apostles. The Son left so that the Holy Spirit could lead. The Spirit is here patiently waiting for us to be led. This is what drew all to Jesus. The Spirit calls us to do great things. It is time we get out of the boat and receive the gifts chosen for us.
May 28, 2015Floating - peaceful, quiet floating. We end our summers at Bass Lake. This was our 27th year. Each year brings a unique variation of differences. From who is able to come, to the ages of our participants! We have experienced lake water levels from full capacity; to the lowest levels “locals” have seen in 33 years. This year our cove had water. However, it was not up to our dock and for the first time we had a sandy cove, with a short walk to get to the water. A drought is a period of dry weather that lacks rain. California has been in a drought for more then a few years. In the last two years we have seen the results of this “drought” with greater prominence.
This year when floating, I was compelled to acknowledge the changes in the trees surrounding the lake. The bark beetle has been busy. Dry, ashen colored pine trees had once dotted the circumference of a healthy green tree lined Bass Lake. This year the dying trees are like long narrow strips of dried up ribbon cascading their way throughout the mountainside. It is sad to see the destruction to what was once a sea of healthy green pine trees.
The tiny winged beetles normally search the forest for sick trees. Prolonged drought has spurred the bark beetle to kill billions of trees. A healthy tree can usually survive invading beetles, by deploying chemical de-fenses that flush them out with a sticky resin. As we need water so do the trees. Dehydration effects the trees, and they become weaker, until they are unable to fight back.
Are we like that? What I mean is, I have watched this forest for 27 years. The beauty has maintained itself throughout many years. The change was not sudden but it was shockingly devastating!
Dehydration; our bodies can tolerate a 3 to 4 percent decrease in body water without difficulty. 5 to 8 per-cent decrease of water can cause dizziness, and fatigue. Over 10 percent body fluid loss causes physical and mental deterioration. A decrease of more then 15 to 25 percent of fluids is fatal, and we cannot be saved.
At what point do we, as the forest, loose our ability to fight off, or even recognize, the subtle dangerous attempts of Satan to push us to the point of no return?
Long time residents of Bass Lake told us that they were injecting their trees with a chemical that will help fight off the beetle. They are not certain this will save their trees but they felt they had to do something.
My thoughts return to myself. What should I do, a healthy green tree, to help a dehydrated sister? Jesus stands imploring me to do something, anything, to bring back one of His “trees” to health.
This requires me to be consistently hydrating myself. I alone am not capable of accomplishing the task set before me. I cannot do this without Him. My daily walk will need to begin and end in the presence of Jesus, refilling my empty self to the point where I cannot fathom denying my thirst for Him.
Hydrated, I am better able to help someone who is not covering herself with life giving water. Beyond that I must be observant, watchful, vigilant, and available, looking for the signs of a thirsty soul.
Is it a choice to hydrate? Initially it is. It’s when we reach that overwhelming place of fatigue and discour-agement that one might quit hydrating. If this subtle process is not noticed, drought will take over and a sis-ter might be lost.
There is a group of women in Ventura who have taken this to heart. We are searching and reaching out to all women. There is much to offer and much to do. We have been blessed with the support of our Elders and Deacons. As we move forward, our confidence lies solely in the fact that this can only be accom-plished under the direction of our Father and His Son. Please help us. Please pray for us and please join us. My Sisters, let us know how we can help quench your thirst.
May 28, 2015
Jesus began to stretch and challenge his chosen followers soon after the death of his cousin John the Baptist. It was now solely and exclusively Christ’s ministry.
Mourning the loss of John, Jesus went to be alone. However, it was not the will of his Father for Jesus to grieve. Hurting, needy, inquisitive, people constantly besieged him. With compassion, Jesus met their needs.
Later in the day towards evening, reality began to set in with his disciples. It was late; they were most likely hungry and tired from the long day of loss and activity. Logic urged them to send all these people away; it was time for them to find shelter and food. They expressed this to Jesus and he said, “”They don’t need to go away. You give them something to eat!”
No easy task! There were 5,000 men to feed along with women and children. His followers replied, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish.” I have no doubt Jesus already knew this. Never passing up the opportunity for a teachable moment, He took the bread and fish, gave thanks to his Father and divided it among the hungry crowd.
Having met the needs of the many, once again Jesus longed to be alone. He made his followers get into the boat. He wanted them to go on ahead of him across the lake, while he sent the crowds away. Finally, he had the time to be alone. If this had been me, I would have fallen into an exhausted sleep. Jesus being wholly God’s son, needed to place himself under the ministering care of his Father. What an amazing thought. Do I allow God to minister me?
It was now three o’clock in the morning and the boat carrying his followers was already a very long way from the shore. Waves began to beat against the boat as the craft headed into the wind. There were qualified sailors on the boat as some of the followers were fishermen. We are not told the followers were afraid until they saw someone walking toward them on the water. They shouted with fear, “It’s a ghost!” Immediately, Jesus spoke to them, “Be strong! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
In a moment of faith mixed with impulsivity Peter answers Jesus, “Lord, if it is really you, then tell me to come to you on the water!” Jesus responds with, “Come!”
Do we have moments like this when Jesus says, “Come?” Absolutely!! It is at this pivotal point that we have a decision to make. Do we step out into the water, come what may and take the plunge? Or do we change our minds and never experience the challenge and cling to safety in the boat?
New experiences are usually filled with anxiety. We tend to shy away from the unfamiliar, especially if we fear we may not succeed. This is the place where we decide if we are satisfied with our spiritual journey or if we are ready to risk our own comfort for a deeper relationship with God. This is the moment we choose to step in and risk succumbing to the water as we go in over our heads.
I’ve often wondered if Peter, who actually walked on the water, later reflected on the fact that it was never in his power to allow this miracle to occur? It was never Peter creating this moment, this occurrence. The only control Peter had over this situation was to move or stand still. The rest was all under the control and authority of Jesus. I am a perpetual student of this!
Oh to be challenged in this way! Would I step out? If I falterer and sink, have I equipped myself with the steadfast resolve needed within my heart to know that I must reach out and grab the hand of Jesus! The power never lies within me and it never will. The only power I have is to move, while wholly depending on Jesus.
Bethel Music has penned this beautiful thought in a song, “In Over My Head.” I have changed the tense to a plural form.
“So here we are standing knee deep, but were out where we’ve never been. We feel You coming, and we hear Your voice on the wind.
Further and further our hearts move away from the shore. Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours.
Then You crash over me and I’ve lost control, but I’m free.
I’m going under, I’m in over my head.
Whether I sink, whether I swim, it makes no difference when I’m beautifully over my head.”
To wholly belong to Jesus, my sisters, we must go in over our heads. I’m still learning how. I don’t think it’s ever easy, but I do know that I am grasping the absolute necessity of having that kind of trust.
We have a wonderful opportunity in our future. We are actively developing a Women’s Ministry in Ventura. I am so excited about this progress. We have so much potential to be united in support of each other. Our strength can only come from our Father, however, united we can walk as one in His presence. Together we can grow and face the challenge of learning to be wholly His.
April 30, 2015
Lose Sight of the Shore
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what I want to do with my life. What will I do? Who will I be? How can I use my abilities to serve God?
For those of you who know me personally, you know that I’ve always been one to blaze my own trail in life. I’ve always known exactly what I’ve wanted and I’ve never let anything stop me from achieving that goal. When I was 20, I bought my ‘74 VW bug even though my parents didn’t want me to. When I was away at college in Oklahoma, I rode around campus on roller blades wearing a neon 80’s ski jacket. I know what I want. However, one thing still remains: can I use my visionary ability to serve God?
The answer is YES! God wants us to dream big and make plans for our lives that we could never accom-plish on our own. That way, we can put it all in His hands, relying fully on Him to make our dreams come true, and then share His involvement in our lives with others. “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore (Andre Gide).”
“The Circle Maker”, by Mark Batterson, encourages us to trust God with our dreams and “refuse to let our budget determine our vision. Faith is allowing your God-given vision to determine your budget. That cer-tainly does NOT mean you practice poor financial stewardship, spend beyond your means, and accumu-late a huge debt load. It does mean that you take a step of faith when God gives you a vision because you trust that the One who gave you the vision is going to make it happen.”
Our goals as Christians should be to show God’s glory in our lives in a way that those who have chosen to forget Him cannot dispute the fact that He is present. In the same way, let your light shine before oth-ers, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt 5:16). “Having vision be-yond your resources is synonymous with dreaming big. And it may feel like you’re setting yourself up for failure, but you’re actually setting God up for a miracle.” Dream big! Pray with certainty! And never doubt that God will answer your prayers.
One thing I have failed at is patience. I get tired of praying and waiting for God to answer my prayers, so I try to make them happen for myself; however, it always ended by blowing up in my face. The same thing happened to Moses. He grew tired of waiting for the Israelites to be delivered from Egypt and so he beat and killed an Egyptian taskmaster, only to have to flee and wait 40 years before the Israelites were finally freed (Exodus 2:11-25). This happened yet again when he grew frustrated with the Israelites constant complaints for water and he struck the rock instead of speaking to it as God had commanded. His punish-ment was that he was unable to lead them into The Promised Land (Numbers 20:1-13). In conclusion, when we let go and lose sight of the shore, we allow God to do unimaginable works in our lives. Are you ready to be awakened into a new life of adventure and miracles? “For I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14).
March 26, 2015
The Looking Glass of Nature
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities…. his eternal power and divine nature…. have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Romans 1:18-20
Recently, I had a meaningful discussion with a young man. He is a good man, good husband and exceptional father. He was telling me about taking his son to see the ducks. I was touched by his insight into the joy of sharing and observing with his young son, the nurturing, caring “instinct” of a Mama duck leading her five babies. His next statement however gave me pause; he indicated to me how vital it was that we preserve this phenomenon of “nature” for his son and future grandchildren. He felt strongly enough to donate his money to an organization that preserves this habitat for the ducks. I have no concerns with conserving the creation we have been blessed with; yet I was saddened to realize that there was never any mention to his Son of God’s hand in bestowing this moment of joy.
We are designed or internally wired by God. He set within us, a desire to seek out the wonders of His creation! It was God’s intention that we would cry out in awe when one of his brilliant shooting stars soars across the sky! That we stand in a driveway with our neighbor observing a sunset so amazing that we have to proclaim, “Only God can do that!” I can picture God looking down on us, smiling, laughing, when we find wonder in a gift He has provided for us at that particular moment in time!
How disappointing it must be for God to realize that some may never take a moment to notice, or worse, remove the weight of His glory, by omitting His existent hand in all of creation. Sadly because we are designed to worship, when we remove God from creation, good meaning, well-intentioned people, will inevitably succumb to worshiping something else. Existent entities such as nature and science have replaced and called into question the existence of God.
This causes me to earnestly beg, who will teach children about God? For it is happening. Well intentioned individuals, credit the majesty of this world, to a godless nature, existing by happy accident. God has been suppressed and removed from the majesty of His creation. I mourn this loss.
We have an earnest opportunity before us. In 3 short months, children will come to our building everyday for 5 days. Our Vacation Bible School is a long-standing work in our community. It is a place of joy, where children will find awe and wonder in the God who made them. Please don’t miss out in this opportunity! There is room for all and we would love to share this moment with you.
Arabella K. Hankey penned the words to a song that speaks to my heart.
I love to tell the story of unseen things above!
Of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love;
I love to tell the story, because I know ‘tis true,
It satisfies my longings, as nothing else would do.
What happens to people when they believe there is no evidence or need for God? The world becomes a place where confusion reigns. There is a mixed bag of leadership, with no one common area of belief. An entity of any nature divided against itself will inevitably fall.
Before Jesus left this earth to return to his Father, he pled with his Apostles to, “Feed my sheep!” This entreaty is no less important today then the urgency given it hundreds of years ago. It was and always will be Christ’s most urgent plea.
The story is old, it is timeless, and it is so needed today. Please join us and pray for us as we tell the story and train young hearts to credit the majesty of this world to its true Creator.
February 26, 2015
How to Enjoy Church
Do you feel as though every Sunday you are walking into church to sit in the same spot every week, only to leave after service is over feeling the exact same way you felt when you came in? Do you zone out while singing during worship, only to wake up from the trance to realize you were on autopilot and didn’t have any idea what you were singing? A question I constantly ask myself is “how can I get the most out of my church experience?” This seems like a very complex question with an answer that would be different for every single person; however, I believe the answer is quite simple. Over the course of this past year while looking for my own answers, I have been attending a non-denominational church as well as the Church of Christ and I have learned many things about myself and my church experience that I would like to share with you.
The first rule to enjoying your church experience is to get connected. Find at least one person (besides your spouse, significant other, sibling, or parent) who you feel you could forge a strong bond with. It is crucial that they be the same gender as you as well. Make them a close friend for you to confide in. Share your troubles, your heartaches, your sins, and stumbling blocks. Become vulnerable to them and allow them to do the same with you. Seek them out in your daily life as a friend and comrade to resist the daily trials of the evil one. God did not want us to walk this life alone but to face the trials of humanity together. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecc 4:9-12).
The second rule to enjoying your church experience is to find a ministry. God gave each and every one of us our own talents and interests. Go out and use them! Find your niche, or special place, in The Church where you can increase and glorify God’s Kingdom. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33). Once you find a place where you belong, you will be encour-aged to not only attend church but to participate wholeheartedly. There is one disclaimer though: you cannot sit around and wait for someone to assign you a ministry.
A couple years ago, I was feeling discouraged and bored at church. I felt as though there was nothing a woman was able to do to help build The Church. But I was so wrong. I took some time to meditate and pray about what I should do and the Lord put a simple and easy answer in my brain: girls’ ministry. I have always been a natural leader, strong in my faith, and interested in forging bonds with young girls who are seeking a positive role model in their lives. I knew this was the right path for me because the role I was looking to fill had always been something that I had wanted for myself as a young girl, but had never received. Ever since pursuing this mission field, the Lord has blessed me and made me grow so much more than I possibly could have imagined. If you have doubts about your abilities, take it from me, the blessings the Lord showers upon those who increase His Kingdom are greater than anything you could possibly imagine. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).
Step three: do it now and do it boldly! “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim 1:7). There is no better day to change your self-image and life goals than today. Many people like to put things off because they think they’re not ready. I’m going to tell you a little secret: you’re NEVER going to be ready! God transforms you and molds you into something new and amazing that can do great things, you only have to let Him. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17) Daily seek Him through prayer and meditation on the Bible. Constantly work to become someone who is selfless, humble, and loving. Make God your life and you will never go wrong. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
January 29, 2015
The Blessing in the Challenge
We ask God’s intervention in our lives when we feel helpless. As I reflect on this, I can only conclude that for me to wait until I reach a point of helplessness to ask God for his intercession is a result of my lack of ability to see God. He however, patiently waits, seeking me, willing me to seek him.
I have learned much about God in 2014. His answer to my prayer created a journey that I was unprepared for. While I would change the circumstances in a heartbeat, the lessons learned, the faith gained, the comfort felt along the way has left me humbly thanking God for his intervention. His amazing faithfulness however, has overwhelmed me to the point of unending adoration and worship.
Darkness is perilous at any age. When a child faces darkness great fear can overtake him. A shadow is a darkened shape of something in light. As an adult faced with darkness we tend to stumble as we make an attempt to navigate through the shadows. Have you noticed that when we find ourselves entangled in an overwhelming journey it exposes us in ways that stretch us beyond what we could ever imagine possible?
I have been a passenger in an airplane encased in a misty fog. As the plane took off the runway I felt a sense of an ominous threat. My faith is placed in the pilot and the ability of the airplane to navigate the menacing obstacle. However, beyond the capability of the airplane or the skills of the pilot, is a phenome-non out of our control.
My thoughts take me back to an image created by Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts, as I realize that above the fog and the clouds, light never stops shining. Join me as the airplane ascends through the murky darkness, and bursts forth into an amazing eruption of brightness that causes our eyes to close. Through our closed eyelids we sense there is a change. We have gone from darkness into a light that demands we take another look! It is in the looking that we realize that the shadows are gone and the view before you is so beautiful, so amazing, so God given, that we dare not take it for granted. But we do. Somehow, we forget that God owns the sky and that it is only his to share. Yet he does, and we are blessed for it.
I have concluded that it is I who has much to learn. God brought me to the place of no choice, and so with tears and a plea for help, over and over again, I gratefully placed my future and that of my family into his capable hands. God does not disappoint. This has always been his design.
1st John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” Had I never encountered the foggy shadows of last year I would never have had the opportunity to experience God’s extraordinary vision through his eyes. For my eyes have been refocused.
My days now include a vision of God-breathed moments that keep me intently aware that he will lead me through darkness. He entreats me to give it over to him. He stands just past the shadows, imploring me to look at him, to talk to him, to fellowship with him and above all to keep moving toward him.
The blessings multiplied throughout the year. You our sisters and brothers in immediate family and in Christ, supported, prayed, hugged and cared for us a thousand times over.
It was Gods design for us to experience our great need for His family. There are no words of explanation suitable to express our appreciation for you our church family. We were never alone, for we had our Father and we had you. May we never forget…
A monument is something that is designed and built as a lasting tribute to a person, a group of people, or an event. It is preserved because of its historical, cultural, or aesthetic importance. It is a reminder of something fine or distinguished, a memorial to somebody in the form of a written or spoken tribute.
I recently watched a movie called “The Monuments Men.” It covers the closing months of World War II. The movie tells the true story of a group of men and women from 13 nations who joined together to serve in the, “Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program.” They were devoted to retrieving and protecting masterpieces stolen by the Nazis.
The character, Frank Stokes, the professor who coordinated this mission with President Roosevelt says, “This mission was never designed to succeed. We’re fighting for the culture, and our way of life…. Destroy their achievements and their history, it’s like they never existed. Just like ash, floating. That’s what Hitler wants, and the one thing we can never allow.” Hitler had indeed raped nations of their cultural heritage by taking all of their treasured pieces of art; paintings, murals, statues, books, all invaluable articles of their history in an attempt to wipe them and their culture off the face of the earth.
I have a confession to make…at the end of the holiday seasons; I always feel a deep sense of regret. I tend to get lost in the demands and schedules of multiple needs, all fun, all wonderful, magical, moments. I love the holidays! I look forward to each and every moment of the joy and love of family and friends. My regret? God gets lost in the season. Simply said, I miss God. Odd isn’t it? What began, as a celebration of the birth of Christ gets lost in the chaos of the event?
I want to invite you to come on a journey with me. Our ladies devotionals for the months of, October, November and December are going to focus on a book by Liz Curtis Higgs, titled the “Women of Christmas.” Our intent is to look into the God designed purpose for women. We will showcase the lives of Elizabeth, Mary & Anna. If you are unable to attend we invite you to get the book and follow along through our online blog! Let me know if this is a better way for you to participate.
There is a scripture recorded in Joshua Chapter 4:19 that keeps coming into my thoughts. It reads: “On the tenth day of the first month, the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. And Joshua set at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”
We too have an invaluable artifact of God’s everlasting covenants. We are so blessed to have the word of God at our fingertips. Our spiritual history, our purpose, our God given culture, our way of life is all recorded for us. It rests by the side of our bed, or on our bookshelves, it’s stored in our iPhones, iPads, and computers. It is a timeless, lasting, tribute, preserved through the sacrifice of countless generations. It proclaims the deliverance of the world, God’s amazing plan of salvation through the birth, life and death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is the future for countless generations to come!
How would we react if this monumental resource were suddenly removed from our lives? Would we miss it? Would we risk our lives to retrieve it from the hands of those who would try to alter or change our God given culture? Dare we entertain the thought that this could happen? While I rest in the knowledge that God is in control, I never want to be like ash, floating…. aimlessly, a distant unrecoverable remnant of what God intended me to be. Please join me and help us all discover God’s intent for the women of the Ventura Church of Christ.
The Cross and the Garden
We all hurt. We all feel disappointment. We all fear in one way or another. We all face discourage-ment, depression, or find ourselves lacking self-assurance or confidence in the direction we are heading. We all struggle with our purpose, our gifts, and our significance. Eventually at some point in our lives we all comprehend our mortality.
I mostly love my morning swim time. I say mostly because some days the thought of jumping into the cold water and swimming, back and forth for an hour seems exhausting. Routine is comforting to me. In fact I am most comfortable with a smooth consistent routine. I think that some mornings it is the routine that makes me jump into that cold water! However, once I am done, I have never re-gretted my decision to swim. God and I have had many defining moments while I’m in the water. As I listen to my music I close out the world; it is my hour of focus.
Jesus left the chaos of the world he lived in to seek time with his Father. Why is it that we are so reluctant to follow his example? My answer for myself… I simply allow the busy-ness of my life to overrun my time in the garden with God. God is there. God is waiting. If I choose to go to the gar-den I will find Him. It is here I can share my hurt, express my confusion and if I listen; directions are given. My heart is comforted, I have been heard, and I have been in the presence of God! Think about that!
We are so blessed in Ventura. We have a church family that has a genuine and unselfish concern for the welfare of each person. Christ’s church is designed to be a garden. It is a place to close out the world, spend time in fellowship and communion with God, his Son and each other. However, in order to be filled, and led to still waters we must attend and be a part of the family of God.
The irony of going into the garden is that it is such a peaceful, amazing place that once inside we may never want to leave. “I’d stay in the garden with him, though the night around me be falling, but He bids me go through a voice of woe, His voice to me is calling.” If you listen to the song it indi-cates a full day was spent in the garden. Christ understands my struggles, my hurts, my joys, my distractions, and my life. But he still says, “Go, go into the world and share this garden with others.” I know I cannot share something that I don’t have. Neither can I share an experience that I have not had. We need to experience the garden, often. God’s garden is large; there is room for anyone who wants to see it.
At the end of each lane is a cross. As I approach the end of the lane my eyes are focused on the cross. There are great promises realized at the cross of Christ. If I can focus on the promises, I am convinced that the cross is a refuge, like the garden, for all who seek it.
In April of this year I was fortunate to receive a Face Book post of a picture of a 21-week-old unborn baby named Samuel Alexander Armas. At 5 months and one week Samuel was diagnosed with spina bifida. Spina Bifida is a type of birth defect where the bones of the spine (vertebrae) don’t form properly around part of the baby’s spinal cord. Samuel’s mother, Julie, was told he would not survive if removed from her womb. Luckily for Samuel his mom was an obstetrics nurse and she had heard about a surgeon who had a remarkable surgical procedure. Dr. Bruner had perfected a process that was not without risk; but if successful, Samuel had the possibility of a normal healthy life. During this pro-cedure, the doctor removes the uterus via C-section and makes a small incision to operate on the baby. As Dr. Bruner completed the surgery on Samuel, the little guy reached his tiny, but fully developed hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon’s finger. This incredible moment was captured in a photo. Strangely this event did not make it on national news, nor was it showcased in any but one newspaper.
We have a mantra in our home. “Integrity is exhausting”. If you have ever been confronted with a journey that is beyond your ability to comprehend you will understand what I mean. To do the right thing, to steadfastly adhere to the high calling of our God is not always easily obtained. What is it that makes this so difficult? For the first time in my life, I was faced with the fact that the “world” does not play fair. I knew this logically; I’d heard it, read it, watched it happen to others, I’d even been able to help those who had the experience of inequity thrust upon him or her. But now it was my turn. Moments of fear, frustration, anger, disillusion, rained down on my life. As a mother, when your child is hurt, you experience a helpless, desperate, need inside of you to “fix it.” But you can’t. The option given is to walk through the journey along side them. And you do.
I’ve often been amazed at the resilience of David. A shepherd boy turned King. Undeniably David was devoted to God, however, during his life, he became an earthly King who fell far away from the kind of man that had drawn God’s favor and devotion to him. In spite of his failures, David rose above himself, sought forgiveness, and went on to pen some of the most illuminating and beautiful Psalms of all time. But here within this conundrum lies the answer. It happens in the journey. It’s the journey that truly defines you. Without the journey, David’s Psalms would have no meaning. Without the journey, we would never know what we are capable of. Without the journey, we may never become humbled and know, without doubt, that it is God who is in control. It is often at the end of the journey that the total realization hits you; this could only have been a God sent journey.
To be a physician, a healer, a surgeon, must be as close as it gets to see God’s miracles in action, for we are truly, “Fearfully and wonderfully made.” Dr. Bruner said, “That when his finger was grasped, it was the most emotional moment of his life, and that for an instant during the procedure he was just frozen, totally immobile.” Dr. Bruner made the conscience decision to live his life with integrity and determined to use his skill and education to save the lives of unborn children. For indeed it is easier to do nothing.
My journey is not over. I am finding that as one journey ends another one begins. Some are harder then others, yet I know that I am never alone. My God has plans for me, plans to improve me, lead me and mold me into his will. This journey has shown me that my life is not my own, that I am simply a tool in the capable hands of my Father. The greatest challenge for me: Let it happen in God’s timing. I often fail at this, yet I truly know God is patiently willing to grant me grace and mercy as I walk the journey. I am his and for that I will always be thankful.
Surprisingly, I came to understand the meaning of love in going through my divorce. It breaks down to a simple mathematical equation:
In Word Form, this would read: Lift Others’ Value over Ego.
When you think about it, most of our relationships fail when we fail to value the “other” person or people in our life more than our own egocentric needs.
Valuing the “others” we encounter, means considering the feelings and opinions of those we encounter in random interaction, professional collegiality, or our most intimate friendships and family ties. It is as simple as a hug from your “little brother” who is now taller than you, sending a card to someone who is just “on your mind” out of the blue, and your 3 year-old telling you he loves you more than the family dog, Kobe. It is as deep as a parent sacrificing the bank account to support a child, or buying airline tickets to help a niece and great nephew make a journey, back to California, they could not afford. Or, members of a church family sacrificing time and energy to provide counsel and childcare free of charge. It is a basic lesson we imbed in young children when we teach them the importance of sharing a prized toy with another child.
Don’t misinterpret this as martyrdom and submissive self-sacrifice of our own values to that of the “other.” Rather, it is viewing the “others” in our lives as worthy of value, even when conflict occurs. It’s easy to value “others” when they, in turn, value us. The challenge and true definition of love, is valuing the “other” in spite of our own self-perceived needs. It is easy to LOVE those who treat us with LOVE. However, Jesus calls us to be more. He de-mands that we LOVE our Enemies. Matthew 5:43-49 states:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heaven-ly Father is perfect.
Jesus calls us to LOVE the seemingly “unloveable.” This month, pray that God soften your heart, and Lift the Value of the Others in your life, above your own Ego.